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Gifted kids challenged to build on their education

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealAlexa Conrad, 8, and Alex Marschner, 9, work on a structure Wednesday built of balsa wood and glue. The Bordewich-Bray Elementary gifted and talented students were trying to create structures that would withstand a simulated earthquake.
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“Scissors please,” Sawyer Barnett, 9, asked of one of his teammates Jace Keema, 10.

“OK, we need a brace here, here, here and there,” Sawyer instructed.

While the other groups were building rectangular structures, their group built a teepee-like shape out of the balsa wood provided.

“Triangles are stronger,” Jace reasoned.

And Sawyer had history to back him up.

“The ancient Egyptians built pyramids and they’ve been lasting a long time so they must be made tough,” he said.

Across the school district on Wednesday, students in the gifted and talented program participated in after-school challenges. At Bordewich-Bray, students were tasked with building a structure out of balsa wood that would withstand a simulated earthquake.

Nick Pretasky, director of outreach for Sierra Nevada Journeys, talked to the students about the elements that make a durable structure.

From there, it was up to the students to come up with a blueprint, then bring the design to fruition.

“They’re doing all the learning,” he said. “They learn from their successes. They learn from their mistakes. If they discover it themselves, it will last a lifetime.”

Carol Harris, the coordinator for the Carson City School District’s gifted and talented program, said there are about 300 students in the school district who qualify for the program.

Students work together in clusters in the classroom and are given additional challenges. They also meet four times a year for challenges after school.

“The research says it’s good for gifted kids to be challenged with their peers,” Harris said. “And it’s really important they learn to work as teams.”

She said the federal No Child Left Behind legislation is aimed at bringing remedial students up to standards, but she said it’s equally important to engage the higher-level students.

“They’re going to be our future leaders,” she said.

Ashley Tibbets, 10, thinks the program will help her do that.

“We can find out our own answers,” she said. “We can go on in life learning. We can make our own mistakes.”

However, Alex Marschner, 9, doesn’t feel the pressure.

“It doesn’t feel like learning,” the Bordewich-Bray third-grader said. “It feels like just having fun.”

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.